This was my 3rd year participating in the Memphis in May triathlon. As usual, I was in a hurry packing up for the race and making sure we were prepared for the 8 hour drive. Because I had been sick since the beginning of the week, I was considering not even making the trip. Even Friday morning as I was loading up the car, I thought about bailing. It never occurred to me to get a weather report. Memphis in May = 90 degrees and humid.
Heading down with 2 members of my Luna Chix team, they were kind enough to let me sleep in the back seat and try to get some rest during the trip down. I was coughing, sniffling and sounding like I smoked a carton of cigarettes. Should I even bother trying to race? Well, too late, I’m in the car and on the way.
Saturday morning, we head to packet pick up, hook up with some other Chicago friends and Mideast Team Elitesuperstar, Jason S., and spend a little time at the expo. The expo at Memphis is always outdoor under a tent. While under said tent, it was hot and humid. It’s not a very big expo, but they do a good job of making sure you can get just about everything you might need or have forgotten to pack.
On to check out the lake for a quick swim. It was not very sunny this afternoon which made sighting for the practice swim very easy. I was pleasantly surprised at the water temperature. The website said 71 – sure felt warmer than that to me. Then again,my last open water swim was done in 62 degree water, so maybe my expectations were a bit off.
Out of the water and on to the bike ride. We were running a little short on time and as soon as I got on my bike, I knew something wasn’t right. With the help of Smart Fit Bike Fit expert, BC, we quickly realized I was missing a spacer. I had a spare wheel, so the fix was easy. Or so I thought. Back on the road, my cassette was jingling around like I had a pocket full of loose change. It was embarrassing to ride by people with so much clatter going on. First a quick transition run. It was hard to breathe, I was still pretty congested. BC and CL really just ran away from me but I had no energy to chase them. Now to the bike mechanic at the expo, blah blah blah, it’s fine – go test ride. Seems fine.
STARVING at this point, we hook up with the Shoemakers and head for a quick, light lunch. I think our group outnumbered all the rest of the patrons in the place. Food was just OK, but we needed to eat something. Back to the room for a quick shower and a nap. The time flew and I think I slept for the whole 2 hours. I was bummed I had to get up. Dinner was uneventful then a quick stop at the Wal-Mart to pick up a few miscellaneous items. Being new at the self-checkout line, I screwed it up and had to have an employee come over and “supervise” me. I’m really not stupid. Really.
Morning came much too quickly and the weather report was scary. Forty degrees. Windy. Very windy. Shoot – I didn’t pack anything to wear in the race in case it was cold. I didn’t think about cold, I’m in MEMPHIS. I got dressed, we ate, headed out to put the bikes on the rack and I went back in to add a second jacket – yes, I had TWO jackets on. I was wishing I had gloves.
We get to the race site and follow all the tail lights through a field where we started parking. The procession of cars on race morning is just a cool sight. It’s early, quiet and you can just feel the anxiety of the athletes as they prepare for the event. Everyone is just focused on doing what they need to get done and mentally preparing for the day.
It was one of my quickest transition set ups ever. I was cold. Very cold. The wind was whipping around and the chop on the lake was much more than I expected. Sure, I’ve swam in worse, but that was in RACINE, not MEMPHIS! I questioned the use of my disc wheel but didn’t change it. How bad could it be? The announcer did his best to entertain us, but all I could think about was how cold I was going to be on the bike. Everyone always asks, “wasn’t the swim cold?” No – when it’s that cold out, the water is now warmer than the air. In fact, it’s quite toasty to jump in the water at that point. It’s when you get out, strip the wetsuit off, don’t dry off and hop on your bike. That’s when it’s cold.
We went for a quick warm up run (though I didn’t warm up) and then quickly took my warm up clothes on to put on my wetsuit. Memphis is a time trial start, one racer every 3 seconds, so we all sat huddled, waiting for our numbers to come up, shivering though our wetsuits were completely on and zipped. One by one, it was time to race until finally it was just BS and I. We had plenty of time to chat and plan our race strategy. Once I was lined up, things went fast. The woman right behind me shot around on my left so I just jumped on her heels. I think I drafted off her for at least half the race. We swam wide to avoid all the other swimmers scattered throughout the water. A few times, I got a mouthful of water due to the choppiness, but I didn’t feel like it slowed me down too much.
I caught up to her in transition and left her there as I ran out with my bike. I was already cold and I wasn’t even on the bike yet. This wasn’t going to be good. The wind, so I was told, was about 35 mph that day. I headed out and my arms and fingers were pretty cold. I struggled to keep the bike straight when the wind gusted. For a few sections, there was a nice tailwind that felt great, but then we’d turn and a wind gust would come and I’d have to fight with the bike to stay upright. I expected worse. My fingers were so cold, they weren’t functioning properly, so I had to take my whole hand off the aerobars when I needed to shift. I knew this wasn’t going to be a strong ride for me – my legs felt heavy from the first couple of miles. But I’m giving it everything I’ve got as this is an “MJ friendly” course.
Back in to transition, I ran one rack over my spot and had to go back. The rest was smooth and I was reminded how hilly the run is on this course. I forced myself to slow down the first couple of hills to keep the heart rate in control. My breathing was labored and I was still congested which felt tougher than it really was. Came up on the Luna Chix about mile 3 of the turn around and tried to encourage them. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to talk much, I was on a mission. Hammer sped up to stay with me for a bit, which I totally enjoyed, but it didn’t last as long as I hoped. I tried to negative split the second half of the run, now knowing where the hills were and that the worst of it was over for me.
That last stretch on this long grassy berm or whatever you call it seems to take forever. It’s along the lake and you can hear the music, specators and announcer for the longest time before you actually get there. I was able to pass a few athletes on that stretch which was motivating. A quick down hill, don’t trip on the root that’s sticking out, and I crossed the finish. A good race, not a great race for me. I never really warmed up on the run – not even sure if I sweated (is that a word?) But Memphis continues to be a fantastic event and I had great fun with my friends throughout the entire weekend.